By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The Michigan High School Athletic Association kicked off the 2015-16 school year Monday by hosting 70 member high schools for training in two pilot sideline concussion testing programs aimed at assisting in decision-making regarding the removal of athletes from activity after possible concussion events and record-keeping of those events beginning this fall.
Illinois-based King-Devick Test and Maryland-based XLNTbrain Sport each will be used to monitor approximately 10,000 Michigan high school student-athletes drawn from schools representing all four classes and a variety of regions statewide.
The pilot programs are part of a three-pronged advance by the MHSAA in concussion care this fall. In addition to becoming the first state association to offer pilot sideline concussion testing, the MHSAA will be the first to mandate record-keeping by member schools of all possible concussion events from detection to an athlete’s return to play. The requirement applies to both practices and events, all levels of all sports in grades 7 through 12.
The MHSAA also this fall is the first state association to provide all participants at every MHSAA member high school and junior high/middle school with insurance intended to pay accident medical expense benefits – covering deductibles and co-pays left unpaid by other policies – resulting from concussions sustained during MHSAA practices or competitions. There is no cost to either schools or families.
“These pilot programs are intended to not only improve what’s actually happening on the sidelines at practices and contests in these communities that are part of the pilot programs, they’re intended to spread the word of the need for improved concussion detection across every community,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “We hope these schools involved will become involved in their leagues and conferences and with their peers across the state as we expand the awareness of the need for better sideline detection and provide ways to get it done.”
The MHSAA asked schools at the end of this spring to volunteer for the pilot programs and then selected participants in order to guarantee a variety of schools based on enrollment and location. Schools are committed to involving at least two sports for each gender each season.
Schools participating in the XLNTbrain Sport pilot program are: Adrian, Adrian Madison, AuGres-Sims, Bay City Central, Bear Lake, Brethren, Belding, Birmingham Groves, Brighton, Chesaning, Corunna, Detroit Collegiate Prep, East Kentwood, Fennville, Fowlerville, Gibraltar Carlson, Grand Rapids Christian, Grandville, Greenville, Grosse Ile, Hamilton, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, Hazel Park, Kalamazoo Christian, Lansing Christian, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, Owosso, Pewamo-Westphalia, Portland, Reese, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, St. Clair Shores Lakeview, St. Johns, Stanton Central Montcalm, Vermontville Maple Valley, West Bloomfield and Wyoming Kelloggsville.
Schools participating in the King-Devick Test pilot are: Bay City Western, Benton Harbor, Buchanan, Calumet, Caro, Caseville, Detroit Cody, Detroit Martin Luther King, Fenton, Flint Kearsley, Frankenmuth, Fruitport, Garden City, Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids Northview, Lake Leelanau St. Mary, Lake Linden-Hubbell, Lincoln Alcona, Midland Bullock Creek, Montague, Muskegon, Niles, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Romeo, Saginaw Heritage, Scottville Mason County Central, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Joseph, Tawas, Vicksburg, Whitehall and Yale.
The King-Devick Test is a rapid eye movement screening evaluation that requires athletes to read single-digit numbers displayed on a tablet computer in order to detect impairments of eye movement, attention, language, concentration and other symptoms of abnormal brain function. The test has been validated in more than 50 recent peer reviewed articles published in elite medical journals and is associated with the Mayo Clinic.
The test is administered on the sidelines during evaluations for suspected head injuries, and the post-injury results are then compared to an athlete’s preseason baseline. Any worsening of performance (increased time and/or errors) suggests a concussion has occurred and the athlete should be “removed from play” for further evaluation.
“The first and most critical step in managing concussion in the youth athlete is to recognize when one has occurred – not always a simple task,” said Dr. David Dodick, professor of neurology and director of sports concussion services at the Mayo Clinic. “The King-Devick test helps take the guesswork and subjectivity out of the sideline evaluation in a rapid, accurate, and objective way.”
XLNTbrain Sport includes balance and web-based neuro-cognitive tests also used before the start of a season to create a baseline measurement of reaction time, attention, inhibition, impulsivity, memory, information processing efficiency and executive function. The test also assesses mood, anxiety, stress and emotionality.
After a possible head injury, a sideline assessment is done using a smartphone or tablet with those results then compared with the athlete’s baseline measurements. The program documents the severity of a concussion, provides a guide for on-the-field decision making regarding treatment and recovery time and can report results via email to parents, coaches, training staff and medical professionals.
Dr. Harry Kerasidis, who designed the XLNTbrain Sport software, presented at the Coalition for Concussion Treatment Summit at the United Nations building in 2014.
“We included an objective balance test that relies on smartphone accelerometer technology which is effective in the field during practice and game situations,” Kerasidis said. “Should a concussion injury be suspected, the system automatically generates a notification to parents and medical professionals and creates a recovery protocol and post-injury tracking so the right people can monitor the athlete’s progress. Then, the system assists medical professionals with the all-important return-to-learn and return-to-play clearance.”
For more on Health & Safety, including preseason physical examination, hydration and cardiovascular resources in addition to concussion information and online training sessions, visit the MHSAA’s redesigned Health & Safety web page.
PHOTOS: (Top) Saginaw Heritage athletic director Peter Ryan (right) is administered the King-Devick baseline test by K-D's Samantha Figueroa. (Middle) XLNTbrain Sport creater Dr. Harry Kerasidis provides insight on his program to those being trained to use it Monday.
Denny White brought quite a bit to the Marysville and St. Clair communities.
In 1961, as a junior in high school, White was part of the first team to bring a football state title to Marysville.
Fifty years later, as an assistant coach, he played a vital role in bringing St. Clair its first MHSAA Finals title in baseball.
During the years in between, and decade after, White brought his knowledge of and passion for those sports to hundreds of student athletes.
But most recently, he brought the two communities together.
This past Friday night, the rival schools played for the Denny White Trophy, an award created to honor the late coach and connect the two communities where he was most revered.
“I’m so happy with all the support that has been around the project,” said Brady Beedon, a family friend who helped to create the trophy and was in the booth calling Friday night’s game for Get Stuck On Sports. “It’s the least we could’ve done for a man who helped so many athletes. His legacy deserves to be preserved.”
In a fitting tribute to White, who died Jan. 22 of this year following a long battle with cancer, the two teams played a hard-fought game at East China Stadium, with White’s alma mater Marysville coming away with a 25-20 victory.
Both teams featured players who had been coached by White at some point in one or both of the sports, as his time on the bench lasted through the fall of 2022.
That season, he coached the JV B football team at Marysville. Most recently before that, he had been the varsity baseball coach at St. Clair from 2015-21.
“Not much can unify rivals, but Coach White’s influence goes beyond that rivalry,” Marysville football coach Derrick Meier said at a press conference unveiling the trophy. “He’s affected thousands of local athletes. … It is awesome that someone had such an influence across the board with all local athletes (in multiple) sports. I contacted him my first year coaching varsity, and he was not willing to leave where he was at. I called him three subsequent years; he graciously declined. The last year he did accept, we added a JV B team, his wisdom and knowledge went well beyond just coaching on the field. We’re all lucky for his influence.
“Heroes get remembered. Coach White will be remembered.”
White was a 1963 graduate of Marysville, who then attended Ferris State and Central Michigan. His coaching journey did not begin in the area where he grew up, however, as he coached baseball and football at Newaygo High School before coming to St. Clair.
He spent 35 years in the Saints athletic program, coaching baseball and multiple levels of football.
Much of his time was spent as the pitching coach for St. Clair for coaches Richie Mallewitz and Bill McElreath. That included the 2011 season, when his pitching staff included current major leaguer Jacob Cronenworth, who now plays second base for the San Diego Padres.
Also on that staff were Joel Seddon, who was drafted twice – once out of high school and again after college – and would go on to be the closer at South Carolina; and Jared Tobey, who pitched at Wayne State and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, playing four years in their minor league system.
While White coached nearly 1,000 baseball games in his career, he was involved with more than just high school sports. He also coached a 13-year-old Little League team to a state title and the semifinals of the Great Lakes Regional in 2015.
No matter the level, White poured all he had into coaching, and that included his final season on the sidelines at Marysville, just months prior to his passing.
“Every single kid that he touched with that team, you could just tell, gravitated toward him immediately,” said Travis Disser, who coached with White that final year at Marysville. “His lessons and his light-hearted humor are just something that you can’t replace, or ever hope to. I was lucky enough to learn pitching from Coach White when I was a younger kid, as well. He was the exact same Denny White as he was all those years ago, as he was last year during his battle with cancer. Coach White was a warrior in every sense of the term. His lessons, both on the field and off the field from him, are something that I’ll never, ever forget.”
The idea to create the trophy honoring White came about not long after his death, as Beedon worked with Meier, former St. Clair athletic director Denny Borse and St. Clair assistant football coach T.J. Schindler to create and design the trophy.
The final product is a two-tiered trophy topped with a pair White’s hats – one from St. Clair, the other from Marysville – that have been bronzed. It includes the years in which he won his state titles at his respective schools, and a passage about his life. There is also room to list the yearly winners, as it is planned to represent the rivalry and shared respect for White in the two communities for years to come.
“Whether it was Little League kids over the last 20 years, or some of the football players and baseball players that he coached over the decades that he coached, all of them when they get together have great stories and fondness for all the memories that (White and his fellow coaches) helped them create,” said Sandy Rutledge, the current St. Clair athletic director and a longtime friend and colleague of White. “I think it’s awesome that now as we play for this trophy every year, it will give our coaches a chance to kind of explain who Coach was. The next generation, maybe they didn’t even know him, will know that he is a legend, and he’ll always be remembered.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) From left: St. Clair’s Larry Wawryzniak, Liam Nesbitt and Peyton Ellis, Denny White’s wife Karen White, and Marysville’s Bryce Smith, Carter Saccucci and Caz Carty stand with the first-year traveling trophy celebrating Denny White’s coaching career. (Middle) White was a mainstay in the area’s sports community for more than six decades. (Below) The trophy celebrates his contributions to both schools and will list the winners of their annual football game. (Trophy photos courtesy of Brady Beedon. Headshot courtesy of the White family.)